On The Road Blog
Meet One of the Swazi Heroes of Young Heroes Foundation
I was in Swaziland a little while back during the celebration of one of the country’s major festivals—the kingship dance of Incwala. The other famous festival in Swaziland is Umhlanga, the reed dance. The focus of the Incwala festival is the King of Swaziland. My friend Khulekani Magongo, the director of GFC grassroots partner Young Heroes Foundation, gave me a lot of information about the festival, including the fact that it is a month long celebration.
I was really amazed by the rich culture of Swaziland, but that joy did not last when I was reminded of some of the country’s challenges. Many Swazis live in chronic poverty, and food shortages are widespread. In addition, Swaziland has the world’s highest known HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, at 26 percent. One in four adults is living with HIV. Since the first cases of AIDS were reported in the country in 1986, the virus has spread at an alarming rate and has killed many men, women, young people, and children.
This is why The Global Fund for Children partners with Young Heroes Foundation (YHF), which responds to the needs of children and youth living with HIV/AIDS in Swaziland. YHF supports these children and youth to stay in school and helps those who have dropped out to re-enroll in school.
YHF uses a family-based approach to ensure the greatest sense of safety and security for its program participants and assists them with nutritional supplements and healthcare as well as health education. . The organization also works with stakeholders like community and religious leaders, local government officials, the local private sector, and other nonprofits to provide livelihood skills training to its beneficiaries.
YHF is currently supporting a number of youth who have tremendously improved their lives. Among them is Bheki Sifundza, who enrolled with YHF when he was in seventh grade. He had lost both his parents to AIDS and was living with his grandmother, who passed away shortly after she got in touch with YHF. Bheki is now a tall, shy young man who likes to smile a lot.
With support from YHF, Bheki was able to complete high school, after which he enrolled in the Young Heroes Skills Training Empowerment Program (STEP) in 2014. Like all the other youth supported by YHF, Bheki received career guidance to help him make the right career choice. He received nine months of training at the Nhlangano Agricultural Skills Training Center and graduated with a certificate in electrical wiring. With continuous support from YHF, including home visits, nutritional support, and counseling, Bheki performed very well and was one of the top students.
Upon his completion of the program, YHF assisted Bheki with an internship placement at Montigny Investments Ltd. in Bhunya. In a recent interview, the electrical engineering manager, Ndumiso Dlamini, said that “although Bheki has been with the company for [only] a short period of time, he has made himself highly visible, showing great signs of learning and improving his skills.” YHF also provided Bheki with entrepreneurial, negotiation, and communication skills to make him more marketable and employable.
Montigny pays Bheki a stipend for his internship, making it possible for him to support himself and not depend on YHF. With an eye toward the future, YHF is currently discussing options with Montigny for full-time employment for Bheki once he completes his internship. Bheki is looking forward to his first full-time job and to earning a salary that will enable him to take care of himself and his dependents. .
“I would like to extend my sincere appreciations to Young Heroes for the support it provided me with over the years,” Bheki said.“YHF has been more than a family to me. It gave me the opportunity to go back to school, acquire skills, and depend on myself. It is my wish that Young Heroes provides the same kind of support to other orphaned children.”
These words of Bheki resonate at GFC, and we want to express our appreciation to all our funding partners and donors who have made it possible for us to reach out to grassroots organizations like Young Heroes and to touch the lives of grateful young people like Bheki.
We are proud to be in the business of transforming the lives of the world’s vulnerable children and youth. We do this through working with grassroots organizations such as YHF, seeking out emergent and innovative solutions to some of the challenges facing vulnerable children.